The major thing about end-of-life planning and estate planning, in general, is that nobody is excited to do it. If you feel guilty about not starting the estate planning process early enough, then you should consider that most people are in your shoes. Either they started the process later than they would have wanted to or never started it at all. I won’t cite a statistic on that here, but you can do the research yourself to determine what percentage of Americans die without having an estate plan in place. The best time to have created an estate plan was when you first had the opportunity to do so. The second-best time to have created an estate plan is right now.
What you may need to motivate you more than you have been to this point in your life is the understanding that your estate plan is not intended to benefit you. It may benefit you in some ways, but the primary beneficiary of an estate plan is your beneficiaries and your family. These are the people who will stand to benefit the most from your having done the work to create an estate plan for yourself. Thinking about the people and groups that are closest to you may help you be motivated to get in gear and finalize whatever planning you have undertaken so far when it comes to your estate planning.
I would invite you to take a moment and think about the feeling you will have when you have finally finished whatever type of estate planning is appropriate for you and your situation. Being able to take a step back and understand that you have done what is necessary for your family to have a financial future that is desirable can be incredibly rewarding. This is beyond doing a good deed for someone. Instead, it is something that can be a life-changing or even a generational-changing act on your part. Do not take for granted what your hard work, planning, and generosity can do for a person.
All of that said, we at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan understand that estate planning is not fun. It is working to think about these difficult steps involved in the process of estate planning. On top of that estate planning necessitates to some extent your thinking about the end of life issues, mortality, and everything that comes with it. Most of us would look for any excuse in the book to avoid having to consider our mortality and what our family and those close to us are going to do once we pass away. However, that doesn't mean that you should remain in this mindset and be comfortable with leaning on this as your excuse for never engaging in the estate planning process. Rather, you need to be moving forward through this process diligently to position yourself well for being able to make a positive impact on the people in your life.
Let's not waste any time in figuring out how to move forward with creating an estate plan that will be responsible towards the assets that you own and thoughtful towards the people that stand to benefit the most from this thoughtful exercise. Everyone reading this blog post right now has concerns and fears as well as certain limitations which need to be addressed. Your circumstances need to b something that is examined closely during the estate planning process. There is no such thing as a one size fits all estate plan. Rather, you need to be able to work with someone who understands this and who can give you advice that is tailor-made to your situation.
Please consider your options when choosing to hire an attorney for your estate planning team. The first part of an estate plan is brainstorming, thinking through the issues, and then putting those ideas into practice. For those of you who want help doing this, it is a good idea to seek out representation from an attorney who practices in estate planning, who has the heart of a teacher and is comfortable discussing issues like this with you and telling you if you are wrong or if a decision you are making may not be for the best.
The next step in the estate planning process is to work to have implemented whatever you have laid out in your estate planning documents. You will name an executor of a will or a trustee of a trust, but how do you know who to choose? Who do you know that is willing and able to step into these roles and ably fill them for you and your family? An experienced estate planning attorney can help you to identify those people who are well-positioned to serve in this capacity for you. If you are concerned about how you are going to ask these people to fulfill these obligations for you then an attorney can take the time to you how estate planning can turn sideways quickly as well as the importance of having a trustee or executor who is diligent and well-prepared.
The estate planning attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan can fulfill this major responsibility for you and your family. We take pride in being able to help those around us through the legal process of estate planning. Whether you want to create a will, trust, power of attorney document, or something different, our attorneys have the experience you need to put your best foot forward. A free-of-charge consultation with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys is available for you six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video.
What can you do quickly and simply to have a big impact on those around you?
You can begin to organize your personal information in a way that will make it easier for you to begin to sort through them when you get to the point where you are going to be planning for your end-of-life-related matters. What assets do you own? For some people, this will not be a lengthy list but for others, it will take some thought and concerted effort to figure out how to organize your property and assets. However, if you want the trust or will that you create to have the full impact that it ought to then the organization is key. Please do not overlook this essential part of the estate planning process. While it may not get much attention this is often the first step that many people miss when creating a will.
You should also begin to think about what debts you have in your name. The assets part of the discussion is the one that will catch the eye of many people, but debts are important too. The reason is that property under a will cannot be distributed to beneficiaries until debts are paid. Depending upon how many debts you have it may make sense for you to handle these matters before beginning the estate planning process. Time spent on these issues is time spent away from other areas of your life and ones that are usually more pressing.
Do you have any retirement plans to your name? Many people have retirement savings accounts, pensions, or other methods of saving for retirement in their names as a result of working for a company that offers these things as benefits. You should be collecting information on them at this stage of your estate planning process. Who is the investment company that handles the retirement account? What investments do you have? What type of investments are they? These are the type of questions that you will need to be asking yourself. The more preparation that you can do now on these basic matters the better off you will be in the long run.
It will help you to start to think, also, about who you want to inherit property from you in your will or trust. These people are called beneficiaries. A beneficiary does not have to be a person. The beneficiary can be a person or some entity that you would like to have some benefit conferred upon after your death. For example, if you belong to a church, support a local charity, or do anything in association with a club or organization that can stand to benefit from your property then you could think about including a place like that in your estate planning. Now is a great time to start to think about asking them how they would prefer to receive money or property and any other details about listing them in your estate planning.
Everyone has a special place in their home where they store important papers. "The desk drawer" or "beneath the stairs closest" are just a few examples of where you may keep papers that are important to you. You should not leave it to chance that your family is just magically going to know or assume where your spot is that you keep your important documents. You should let someone know- probably that person should be the executor of your will. The executor is the person who oversees administering the will and executing your wishes once you pass away. This is the person that you trusted to hand out property and pay debts if you have any. It would only make sense that you would tell this person where your will is kept so that he or she may do their job that much easier.
While we're on this subject, you can also take the time to do a reading of your will when it is all done and signed off on. The reading of your will does not need to be something dramatic or anything like that. Rather, you can and should let your family know what your thoughts are before your passing. I recommend this to people for several reasons. The first is that your family should not need to spend the first few days after your passing wondering who is going to get what, etc. You can take all the guesswork out of the situation by telling your family who is getting what. Any person who is upset that they will not be getting anything or as much as they would have thought can use the information gained at the reading of your will to look at their life and decide if a change is needed.
Not every situation is as dramatic as this but imagines a situation where you have a relative who is a drug addict. He is harming himself daily with drugs and alcohol and is not a responsible adult. This may be a problem that you can identify and wish to do something about. Your leaving him out of your will may be an attempt to do exactly that. While he may resent learning that he was left out of your will you can have a conversation about why that was. If you think that you will be harming him by giving him money, then that is a good reason to leave him out of your will. Enabling is ultimately a bad behavior and some of the nicest people that I know are enablers. By doing a reading of the will while you are still alive you allow your relatives to know where they stand. This may be awkward, but it can be an important step to clear the air and to spend the moments after your passing thinking about you and your life rather than money and things of this nature.
What sort of estate plan do you want and what are your goals?
An estate plan is a window into a person's values and goals. What was important to you during your life is what is commonly listed in a will. Your family, friends, and charitable causes are all things that are reflected in a will. The more specific you can be in your will the easier you are going to make a life for your executor. Imagine this person needing to decipher what you meant by a certain clause or provision in the fie. Rather, you can take the time to make sure your will is a clear reflection of your wishes so that there is no doubt what your intentions were.
A good exercise for you to try out regarding this process would be to assign each beneficiary of your will a specific property item or asset to receive upon your death. The more specific you can be with things the better off you will be. If you can manage to plan things out well in these initial stages of your case, then you will be prepared to draft the actual will itself that much easier.
Part of this planning will be determining which person should fill certain roles in your estate. We have already talked about how an executor is a person who will divide property to beneficiaries in your will once you pass away. Someone you can trust, you excel with deadlines and a person who has good analytical skills are what you may be looking for when it comes to an executor. Once you have an executor in mind, you should talk to that person to determine whether he or she will be willing to act as executor. The last thing that you want to do is name someone the executor of your will only to find out that he or she is unwilling or unable to fulfill those responsibilities. In that case, a secondary executor would be given the authority to follow through on your wishes and the will.
If you have children who are under the age of 18 then you will need to name a person to act as their legal guardian after you pass away. This sort of situation would come into play if you and your spouse were to pass away very close together in time. You may choose to have all your children live under the same roof after you pass away. Or, your children may be divided into different guardian homes depending on the number of children that there are in your family.
Choosing to make sure that your property is protected, and your friends are cared for under your will is a major undertaking. When it comes to something as challenging as creating an estate plan you would be best served by working with an experienced probate and estate planning attorney. If you have questions or would just like to learn more about the estate planning process, then working with an attorney at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is a great place to situate yourself during this process.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post then please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed estate planning law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week here in our office, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas estate planning as well as what impacts may occur if you were to become involved with a probate case or estate planning matter.